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English Prospect

Hallway Patriots

Прочитано: 20

Text by Mikhail Shevchuk

Translation by Vladimir Kolosov

During the third week of the special military operation, Vladimir Putin told his fellow citizens that everything in the world has its price. Because of the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, the country’s economy is facing deep structural transformations that will be «difficult» for Russians: they «will lead to a temporary increase in inflation and unemployment,» the President said.

It is easy to believe that these deep structural transformations will be difficult although it is not that easy to agree with the fact that they will be temporary. Of course, the authorities intend to deal with these problems by raising the minimum wage, as well as various pensions, grants and salaries for state employees. It is not clear to what extent they may be raised, and it is not at all clear what non-state employees should expect from the authorities. However, the state and its treasury are the only instruments to rely upon — this is probably the real value of the future structural transformations.

In Putin’s speeches, the sanctions, the special operation and the difficulties are described as having little to do with each other. «New realities» are coming, and why? Simply because of the general malignity of the West. The annexation of Crimea and the operation launched by Russia on the territory of Ukraine — these are grounds enough for Western countries to impose sanctions. They could have behaved as if nothing had happened, but they decided to react — and this is the disgusting essence of the West.

For us, such behavior is also a reason to finally break off relations with European and international structures. Russia has just been kicked out of the Council of Europe according to its own request, so at least now the Kremlin will no longer have to suffer this annoying human rights court. A court that is outside any national jurisdiction — what a ridiculous notion.

However, Ukraine itself is just an excuse to talk about much more global things. Putin uses this word more and more often — he talks about global poverty, global social networks, the global economy, and global dominance. A special operation is going on in Ukraine, while in the rest of the world, there is also a war going on — namely, the war of ideologies.

Both Putin and his colleague, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, propose to look at the situation in this particular way. In his recent interview, Mr. Lavrov said: «This is not about Ukraine at all. Or rather, not so much about Ukraine, but about the world legal order. The United States took over the whole of Europe. This is an epochal moment in modern history. It reflects the battle for what the world order will look like.»

That may well be the case. Claims are made to the world and Europe, while military operations take place in Ukraine. However, the neutral status of this ill-fated country would radically change the world order called «the era of a neutral Ukraine». There are problems associated with gasoline prices, but Putin says his special operation has nothing to do with them. Evidently, he is very modest.

Lavrov thinks globally. Like Putin, who believes that many countries in the world have been living for a long time, «bending their backs and obsequiously accepting all the decisions of their sovereign status.» He believes that Russia «will never be in such a miserable and humiliated state.»

For the sake of destroying the old world, one must be prepared for both inflation and unemployment. History shows that the public were at one point ready to sacrifice everything with the hope that later on it would be possible to build a society where no one would have to sacrifice anything at all. It was called communism.

However, it seems that geopolitics cannot be the deepest wave of claims. The President has started attacking consumer society. Vladimir Putin says that he has nothing against «those who have villas in Miami or on the French Riviera, those who cannot do without foie gras, oysters, or so-called gender freedoms.» This is not the point, but the fact that many of those people are mentally not here, not with their people, but «in the hallway of the upper caste.»

Naturally, there are questions concerning methods of separating the wheat from the chaff. Many Russian officials and deputies have foreign real estate, not to mention journalists or businesspersons. Vladimir Solovyov is one of them — with his notorious villas on Lake Como. Is he mentally crippled as well? No. A real patriot would never order oysters and foie gras, and would not go to the Riviera to get them. However, according to Putin, the West is splitting Russian society into the poor and the rich. We can detect a hint of jealousy in the President’s speeches — either from the 1990s, or even from late Soviet times. The jealousy that state employees experienced for black marketers, who could afford more material wealth.

That is what it is all about. The Russian people went to McDonald’s, and this was a voluntary humiliation in the existing coordinate system. At a higher level, the people humiliated themselves by eating foie gras, while at lower levels, they ate burgers. In the new realities, there should be neither one nor the other.

The people humiliated themselves when eating hamburgers, when buying Mercedes cars instead of Zhiguli ones, when visiting Egypt instead of the Crimea. The point was that Crimea was not Russian, but now it has been returned. Egypt was closed for many years, but it could not help anyway.

In fact, it is quite easy to understand for those who survived the collapse of the USSR. When a kilometer-long queue lined up to the first McDonald’s in Moscow, it was humiliating, because it turned out that the powerful Soviet state was unable to feed its citizens with typical burgers. The Americans, who had been considered enemies for decades, came to Russia and just did it. The people obsequiously paid their money for it, instead of proudly turning away.

It was really hard to look at the line at McDonald’s for those who were obliged to fight the enemy. In the late 1930s, the USSR started producing Soviet burgers based on a similar American model. However, this business initiative was not renewed after the war.

In addition, the usual hierarchy of the material wealth distribution changed in the country — it has always been favorable to those working for the state. Some did so for eight years, some — 30. Some of them thought they were building their future all the time, while others, as it turned out now, only pretended to do that.

To get out of the late Soviet paradigm of relations, in which sellers did not just sell goods to buyers, but thereby emphasized their superiority (here I have a product that you do not have, so you are humiliated). Putin did not manage to get rid of this kind of Soviet paradigm and distribution system. There is no equality between sellers and buyers. This is exactly what should be taken into consideration in case of regular pathos about the indispensability of Russian gas for Europe.

Pride is the only way to compensate for poverty, and poverty comes solely from unfair distribution. Someone distributes goods, thus depriving others of them partially. This is the only reason why such a world order is unacceptable for a soil-dweller. «The myth of the so-called golden billion is collapsing,» Putin says.

Anyway, for a generation that accepts Coca-Cola, Mercedes and McDonald’s as drinks, cars and fast food, but not as general value symbols, any foreign internet service means just an element of life regardless of its national origin. Representatives of this new generation, unlike their fathers, do not feel that they are in the «hallway». The people eating oysters in any new reality will not have problems that relate to inflation or unemployment. Those problems will exist for those who have never heard about oysters or gender freedom.

Russia Ukraine
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